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TPR Early Voter Exit Poll Shows 64 Percent Support Pre-K 4 SA Initiative

Among the most talked about issues this election season is San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro’s proposed Pre-K 4 SA program. In August, City Council members voted to send the measure to an election, and although the majority of members supported the initiative, several were against.

All but District 9 Councilwoman Elisa Chan, District 8 Councilman Reed Williams, and District 10 Councilman Carlton Soules agreed to the creation of a corporation that would oversee the tax revenues of the initiative, should voters approve it.

During early voting, conflicting polls

Recently, the Tea Party-aligned South Texas Alliance for Progress released polling data that showed nearly 60 percent of the people they asked did not support Pre-K 4 SA, with more than 40 percent in favor.

However, the conservative organization is actively and publicly opposing the ballot measure. Members there did not provide the methodology for the poll or the phrasing of the questions.

Sources within the Pre-K 4 SA campaign have said their own polling shows more than 54 percent of likely voters support it.

Texas Public Radio’s Ryan Loyd conducted an unscientific poll of 128 voters; about 10 percent of the number the South Texas Alliance for Progress group polled. Those picked were chosen at random in all quadrants of the city, and were asked how they voted on the education initiative as they left the early voting locations.

The Findings:

Of the 128 surveyed, 64 percent voted in favor, and 34 percent voted against the Pre-K 4 SA tax increase.

The issue had more supporters than opponents on the South, West and East Sides, with overwhelming support for the measure on the East side.

The North Side showed a tie, and included people like Bob Duin, who said he doesn't like the plan, but supports it anyway.

"Yeah, you need to help everybody you can and hopefully the politicians are smart enough to sort it out," Duin said. "It's like the Mayor said, it's not a good start but it's a start and you've got to start somewhere and improve on it."

Rosie Rodriguez, who voted at the McCreless Branch Library, also did not support the measure because she thinks pre-K for four-year-olds is like glorified childcare.

"I feel that they already have pre-K half a day and I think that's enough for pre-k,” said Rodriguez. “All day is more like babysitting than pre-k."

But Natalie Ladesma, an elementary school teacher who is taking time off to care for her newborn, said there is no reason not to support a full day pre-K program, and a half day program, she said, is not effective.

"Once you get them to start into the curriculum, before you know it it's time for them to go home," said Ladesma.

Pre-election Debate

The issue has been debated at various forums across the city, and Mayor Castro and Commissioner Wolff continued the discussion on this weeks episode of Texas Public Radio's 'The Source' (see link at the bottom of this page).

Mayor Castro defended his program as a beginning to increasing brainpower for the future of business and productivity in the city. Opponents like County Commissioner Kevin Wolff think the plan is too vague and overlaps school district efforts.

A haphazard poll not as dubious as it sounds

St. Mary's political science professor, Dr. Henry Flores, said polling people at random at voting locations is called a "haphazard poll." But unlike it sounds, Flores says this polling method, asking voters how they cast their ballot at the polling site, actually delivers surprising accuracy.

For example, Flores said on the East Side, where African-Americans are the majority of voters, every person but one said they supported the measure. Flores said African-Americans typically support early childhood education and voters there see the benefits of programs like Pre-K 4 SA, and likewise for people on the West Side.

But the North Side comes with a variety of voters who believe differently.

"The Northeast Side of San Antonio has traditionally been anti-tax, pro small government and they'll see the pre-K San Antonio program in that nature,” Flores said. “If you were to poll closer to the Medical Center, you might get more for than against, so it just depends."

Deciding how to vote can depend on where you are in life

A voter's "life lens" is another variable in the decision making process. For example, college-age men with no children will tend to vote 'no' on something like this.

Northwest Vista student Gary McDow admitted that's why he voted against it.

“It probably plays into a factor and money is tight,” said McDow, whose friend Joseph Ross said he is opposed to the tax increase.

"We could find money to fund pre-K for San Antonio, but I don't think we need to add more taxes to what we already pay,” said Ross.

Polls and predictions

The numbers sampled Wednesday aren't a perfect reflection of how the election will go, and Flores said he does not have the answers, either.

"Anytime I'm asked to predict the outcome of an election, I said, 'Look, I got a college education but with it never came a crystal ball,’” Flores said.

“If your survey is any mirror of what the reality is out there, I think Mayor Castro is going to win on this one," said Flores, but still, that's just a hunch. The issue won’t be decided officially until Nov. 6.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.